Back again to the Peacock Theatre, one of the wonderful houses of dance in London. From my first experience in ‘the hood’ where urban myths unfold on stage, to a cultural, vibrant and full of life story of Bollywood vs Traditional Indian dance.
The story follows the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather and the distance caused between them with his want to keep tradition alive and her eagerness for fame and the Bollywood scene.
We encounter flashbacks vs the current storyline, emphasised by the narration of the progress of the story. With this and the occasional comical and melodramatic scene, we are given the sense of Bollywood humour; an almost Shakespearian technique of throwing in comic relief amongst serious storylines. There is also a slight hint of satire, not just at Bollywood, but of all films across different cultures – pointing out the basics of storylines and how underneath the differences that producers give to a film, they are fundamentally the same.
Majority of the storylines they pick on are girl meets boy romances; the obstacles they face but the ultimate reunion of the characters, conquering all with love. This is mirrored cleverly itself with the storyline of the production – the main character reuniting with her childhood sweetheart after being whisked away by fame and fortune. A cross-culture concept of tradition vs modernisation and the affect it makes on heritage is also picked upon by highlighting through dance and costume the current trend and the more traditional.
The Merchants of Bollywood is full of life and colour – the energy brought to the stage through dance is palpable; the music is catchy and enjoyable; the characters are well formed in their blocks of serious characters and the comical relief. Some of the more serious moments become a little hammed up and caused laughter rather than an emotional expression. I continued to think of this, comparing it to the rest of the production – from my little knowledge of Bollywood, it does have a sense of melodrama and the Soap Opera tint on its stories and characters. By adding these moments to that ideal and taking account of the audience members who this made a positive impact on gauging from reactions, it would seem that playing off the over dramatic Bollywood genre is well constructed by imputing this through these moments; another satirical but celebratory nod to the film genre.
Overall I love The Merchants of Bollywood. As westerners, we have this concept of India as a beautiful, colourful place, steeped in history and tradition, but also in some aspects moving with the times. The story and construction of the production emphasises all of this; coming away without having a good time is pretty impossible.